“I would much rather work than be stuck inside at home.”
Ghislaine Masson is the manager of Café Léon, a restaurant with a 120-seat capacity on Rue Plan d’Agde in Montpellier’s Saint Roch district. She’s loaded with energy. It was a shock for her when the first lockdown hit in March 2020.
“I went from a life at 200 miles an hour down to not moving at all. It was like a cold shower. Fortunately, I was prepared to get through complicated situations!”
Actually, when Ghislaine Masson opened her restaurant 13 years ago, she did so at the worst possible moment – in winter, right before the financial crisis caused by sub-primes.
“As soon as I started my business, I understood that it was essential to protect the company in order to be able to face unexpected moments.”
The health crisis was one of those. But this time, she had enough assets to take on the troubled times in a much more serene manner.
Her staff of 6 people was placed on “partial unemployment” (a program funded by the French government to protect jobs) and Ghislaine paid the difference in order to provide full salaries. She continued to pay her taxes and social charges without requesting postponement and without taking out a government-guaranteed loan (PGE). At the same time, she did receive government aid and she turned towards other support mechanisms implemented by the City of Montpellier and Montpellier Méditerranée Métropole.
“Their programs really helped us a lot, both for assistance with rent and tax exemption for the terraces,” she explains, then adds, “Montpellier and Montpellier Métropole teams were present and responsive. They were really there to help us with our needs.”
Ghislaine Masson then took advantage of the time to make improvements to the restaurant’s patio and expand the menu with home-made dishes. She and her team tested the new recipes while respecting restrictions strictly. The result is that she succeeded in strengthening ties with her coworkers, and scallop ravioli in foie gras sauce has become a standard for the establishment, along with slow-cooked rack of lamb, veal sweetbread, and smoked pork ribs.
Since the most recent deconfinement on May 19, she has been happily back in the kitchen.
“As we had to reduce our terrace seating capacity from 84 to 48 people, we can focus more on taking the best possible care of our customers.”
Ghislaine Masson is a positive restaurant owner in any circumstance.